Does Every Orphan Need Adopting?

There are 153 million orphans in the world today. Most of us would agree that making more adoptions possible is the most obvious solution to the problem, but what if it's not that simple? What if, in some parts of the world today, adoptions are unintentionally hurting children? Jessica and Adam Davis set out to change a little girl's life, but a shocking revelation disrupted their journey and challenged everything they thought they knew about orphans.

The stories in this episode challenge our own preconceptions about one of humanity's most pressing concerns: protecting the world's most vulnerable children, and doing justice on their behalf. Also featured: Mike Gallagher from 1MillionHome, and Brian Mavis & Tracee Rudd from America's Kids Belong.

"Is this what inter-country adoption is like? We're just buying other people's children? Is that all we're doing here? Because it doesn't seem like we're helping anyone. It actually seems like we're inflicting harm." -Adam Davis

There are 153 million orphans in the world today. Most of us would agree that making more adoptions possible is the most obvious solution to the problem, but what if it's not that simple?

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Eric Huffman:
Hey, everyone. Welcome to Maybe God. Recently, we've noticed a spike in brand new listeners, which is really exciting. If this is your first time listening, we created Maybe God three years ago to address the most difficult and profound questions that people often ask about God. We wanted to do that with storytelling, instead of just with argumentation as people are so prone to do. So be sure to follow or subscribe to maybe God wherever you get your podcasts so that you'll know right away every time we drop a new episode. If you would be so kind as to leave us a glowing review, especially on Apple Podcasts, we would really appreciate it. To find out more about Maybe God or get to know our production team a little better, visit our website, MaybeGodPod.com. Okay, I can't wait for you to hear this new episode. So let's get started.
Adam Davis:
So we are in our first airport, you know what city we're in?
Namata:
No.
Adam Davis:
We're in Pittsburgh. How long do we have to wait until our plane gets here?
Namata:
I don't know.
Adam Davis:
Like an hour and a half. So we have lots of planes to ride on, right? Before we get to Uganda.
Namata:
Right.
Adam Davis:
This is the first one, we'll get on it in about an hour. Then we'll make another video. That open?
Eric Huffman:
Today on Maybe God, a powerful story about a family that set out to change a little girl's life, the shocking revelations that disrupted their journey, and how they chose to rectify a hidden injustice. Their story challenges all of our preconceptions about one of humanity's most pressing concerns, protecting the world's most vulnerable children and doing justice on their behalf.
(MGP THEME)
Eric Huffman:
153 million. That's the number of orphans in the world today according to UNICEF. Most of us would agree that this number is both staggering and unacceptable. Most Christians especially should find this number appalling. Since in the Bible, God repeatedly commands believers to look after the orphans. Most of us would also agree that making more adoptions possible is the most obvious solution to the problem. But what if it's not that simple? What if in many cases, international adoptions are unnecessary at best? What if in some parts of the world today, adoptions are unintentionally harming children?
Eric Huffman:
In preparation for this episode, we ran into several surprises, the biggest of which was that we didn't fully understand the meaning of the word "orphan". I had no idea how most orphans across the world became orphans in the first place. I had a lot to learn. My hunch is that we all do. That's why our team reached out to Jessica and Adam from Ohio.
Jessica Davis:
We met in college, Adam and I, and we've been together ever since.
Eric Huffman:
Adam, like me, is a Methodist pastor, which wasn't the plan when he first met Jessica.
Adam Davis:
I grew up in the church, but didn't really take my faith seriously until I went to college and I met Jessica, who did take her faith seriously. I wanted to keep dating her. So I started taking my faith seriously.
Eric Huffman:
They've been married almost 20 years now, and they have two boys and two girls. Their oldest is a senior in high school. In 2013, Jessica and Adam started thinking about adoption.
Jessica Davis:
We had this feeling and our understanding through just our life experiences that there were millions of children in the world that needed a family. So for us, it was really like we looked around at our home, our resources, and though we're not wealthy, we knew we could afford to take care of another child. We knew we had the love and support for another child.
Eric Huffman:
Was your faith a part of that decision at all?
Adam Davis:
Generally speaking, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If someone's hurting, you want to step in and you want to meet that need.
Eric Huffman:
How did you go about the process of adopting, what path did you choose and why?
Jessica Davis:
We felt like we know there is need in the United States foster care system, but we felt like at minimum, there are contingencies in place to meet the child's medical needs. They're being fed. They're being protected, and I know those safeguards don't always protect every child. But we also felt like in countries like Uganda, there's many orphanages where there are no safety nets. I mean, that was our understanding at the time, that these children were in this more dire situation, that was really the reason. It was just where's the greatest need? Okay. Well, let's go to where we feel that is.
Adam Davis:
Well, and that's what we saw in our research because Uganda is about the size of Oklahoma. In a country the size of Oklahoma, I think the number was 2.3 million orphans. When we heard "orphan", we thought a child with no family, nowhere to go, literally no one to look after them, no hope, nothing.
Eric Huffman:
So they started looking for an agency that could facilitate an adoption in Uganda.
Jessica Davis:
For us, it was really important to find an adoption agency that we thought was transparent and operating ethically.
Eric Huffman:
That's when they came across the Ohio based agency, European Adoption Consultants, which have been around since 1992. When Jessica and Adam heard from other adoptive parents who spoke very highly of their experience with the agency, they put themselves on the list for a little girl from Uganda.
Adam Davis:
It was almost a year I think, before we were matched with a child. That just made no sense to me because like, if there's 2.3 million orphans, what takes so long?We were matched initially with one child. They sent us a picture. It was a little girl, she was standing beside a seated woman. So we just asked, "Who's this woman in the picture?" They freaked out like we weren't supposed to see that woman, I just assumed she worked at the orphanage. We've never done this before. We don't know the process. So that child was we were told no longer available.
Eric Huffman:
A few months later, they were matched with another child, who at first they were told was a girl. Then the agency came back a few weeks later and told them it was actually a boy. Then a few weeks after that, they were matched with another child who had the exact same name as that boy, though apparently it was now a girl.
Adam Davis:
We feel so foolish sharing this now because anyone listening this would be like, "Why would you continue with the process?" They always had a reason. like they always had a way to explain away our concerns.
Eric Huffman:
It took one and a half years to be successfully matched with a child. In the end, the adoption cost them $60,000, most of which went to the adoption agency and foreign program fees. But part of that cost included flying their entire family to Uganda in April 2015 to meet their new daughter, five-year-old Namata. At the time, Namata was living in an orphanage with bars on the windows and no toys for the kids to play with.
Jessica Davis:
We wanted to take our whole family over. Because we didn't want to bring this child into our home and be like, "Hey, this is your family. This is the way we live." We wanted to like bring her life into our life, bring the two together. We wanted for her to feel like we understood where she came from, her culture.
Jessica Davis:
When we were in Uganda, we both started to realize that we didn't quite feel like our adoption agency was as transparent as we had believed before. So they have people in Uganda they hire that you are required as an adoptive family on their program to work with. They were awfully shady. We thought what we were witnessing was exploitation of adoptive families for every dime they could get. That was definitely happening. Any concerns we did have, when we would tell our agency they didn't seem to care. So we were realizing, "Okay, there are some things that aren't adding up." still weren't connecting that that wouldn't have anything to do with Namata or her situation.
Eric Huffman:
The family spent several months in Uganda, getting to know Namata's culture and waiting for her visa to be approved. In September 2015, they met up with Namata at the airport in Kampala, Uganda's capital.
Jessica Davis:
Look at you.
Adam Davis:
That's your mom there.
Jessica Davis:
She looks like a princess. Oh my god.
Eric Huffman:
And brought the little girl home to Ohio.
Jessica Davis:
Are you happy, Mata?
Namata:
Yes.
Jessica Davis:
I love you.
Namata:
I love you too.
Jessica Davis:
She is truly amazing. She is like this bundle of joy, easygoing, incredibly smart and she just had this magnetic personality. People were drawn to her. She was just amazing.
Jessica Davis:
Mata, look. Here we go.
Eric Huffman:
Did you get the sense right away that she felt at home with you, with your family, with your children?
Jessica Davis:
We really did. We had been prepared for a different type of transition. We took a lot of classes, we had met a lot of adoptive families that tried to prepare us for a very rough transition. which honestly makes sense. Why wouldn't that be a very difficult transition? So we were really ready for that. But it seemed effortless. From day one, the kids started playing together, we went places together. It almost felt like there wasn't much of a change besides there was a new kid in our family. Even when we moved to America, I remember her walking into the house and being like, "Okay." It wasn't like wow.
Adam Davis:
We thought he was gonna be blown away by all these things. I remember when we took her to the airport to come back to the United States. No big deal.
Eric Huffman:
No big deal. Just roll with it.
Adam Davis:
That's cool.
Jessica Davis:
They bumped us up to first class, which we'd never done in our life. We're all giddy and Mata's like, "Can I have another one of those ice cream things?"
Eric Huffman:
Namata's English was extremely limited when she arrived in Ohio. So the first few months, she lived with Jessica and Adam, they had to be creative with their communication.
Jessica Davis:
Even though we weren't communicating with words as much, we would still speak to each other. She would speak to me in her language, I would speak to her in English. I understood some basic words from her language. So that was a barrier, but it didn't seem to cause the frustration. I think the frustration that looking back is that maybe we didn't understand certain situations, we were viewing situations through the lens of what we had been told. So maybe we missed some things because of that language barrier.
Namata:
Hen, bag, 10.
Eric Huffman:
As Namata learned more and more English, the disturbing reality of her situation became clear.
Jessica Davis:
So at first it was little things like just her describing her life in Uganda. She was describing what seemed to us as a very normal and healthy home life. Then it was more things like siblings we didn't know existed. Sounded like a very large, extended family that she loved and missed. We were just very confused. None of this matched what we were told. Then one of the big revelations was when she was talking about how she went to school every day, that was a big part of our paperwork, had never attended school, had never had access to an education. Here she was telling us how her mom walked her to school every day. It was one of her cherished memories, walking to school with her mom and her sister on her mom's back.
Namata:
My house look like that.
Jessica Davis:
Your house used to look like that, but it doesn't look like that now. Did your mom changed? it?
Eric Huffman:
What Namata described of her life in a small village in Uganda did not line up with anything Jessica and Adam had been told by the adoption agency. According to the agency, Namata's father was deceased and her mother had been seriously neglecting her. Jessica and Adam were led to believe that because she had no one else, Namata would remain in the orphanage indefinitely if they didn't adopt her.
Jessica Davis:
What are they doing here?
Namata:
Where?
Jessica Davis:
What is that picture up? She's cutting cloth, it looks like she's buying cloth to make clothes.
Namata:
No, mom. Ma, she's making clothes.
Jessica Davis:
Then I think one of the most impactful revelations was when she very clearly stated that her mom deeply loved her and that she doesn't think she would have ever given her away. I'm sitting there thinking, all the things that we were told, and I'm thinking maybe this is a child's way of recreating things so that she can deal with it. We had never mentioned those things to Namata because we figured if she wanted to share them with us, she would come to us someday. I'm really glad we did do that because those were all lies and really hurtful things. That would have probably been pretty awful to impose that on Namata at such a young age. For her to be like, "Wait, did that happen?" So instead, in that moment, I just said, "Well, okay, so I guess I need to find out what happened." She looked at me and she was so relieved.
Eric Huffman:
Jessica and Adam knew the first step to finding out the truth was tracking down Namata's mother. So they reached out to a friend that they'd met in Uganda, a woman named Gladys and asked her to take pictures of Namata to the little girl's village.
Adam Davis:
Within minutes of our friend leaving the village, we got a phone call from our adoption agency about why we were sending there, what what we were trying ... Then on the phone call, somehow she told us that we had cost the adoption agency $30,000 by our little stunt. I'm thinking what?
Jessica Davis:
In referrals. That was my first awakening to maybe doing something wrong by children, because then I thought, Wait a second. Did she just say she lost $30,000 in referrals from that village? So does that mean they've got children in that village?
Adam Davis:
How does that travel from this rural Ugandan village to wherever this person was located in the United States, how does it travel like that to where she's on us immediately? Our trust in the agency-
Jessica Davis:
Was gone at that moment and probably more.
Adam Davis:
Continually eroded and then ultimately vanished.
Eric Huffman:
Well, yeah. You have to suddenly feel this pendulum swinging in your heart, suddenly maybe you're not the heroes or even protagonists in the story. So maybe you've been duped into playing a sinister role in someone's life, someone you care about.
Jessica Davis:
Yes.
Eric Huffman:
That's shocking. Jessica, tell me how that hit you to realize that this little girl has a mother who loves her and wants her back.
Jessica Davis:
At that point, I still hadn't heard from Namata's mother. So for me, I still wasn't sure what the truth was, what the whole story was. But as a mother, I could not stop thinking, "Oh, no. What if? What did we participate in? Or was this something even more confusing? Did Namata's mom want to get her to America for an education?" We just weren't sure. Even that, what is the underlying problem in that scenario, with what we've done and the harm done to this child through just losing everyone and everything that was familiar to her?
Adam Davis:
Part of us was just like, "So is this what intercountry adoption is like, we're just buying other people's children? Is that all we're doing here?" Because it doesn't seem like we're helping anyone. It actually seems like we're inflicting harm. We're not doing any good here.
Eric Huffman:
That's when Jessica and Adam launched their own investigation.
Jessica Davis:
I knew I couldn't contact our adoption agency. So I contacted the State Department, the FBI, contacted the Ugandan authorities. And amazingly, the Ugandan side, they launched their own investigation right away. Their investigation came back and told us all of our paperwork was fraudulent. So now we have an adoption agency we don't trust, a child telling us about a family she's missing deeply and fraudulent paperwork. But we still don't have word from Namata's mother. But we were thinking, "How do we get to her?" We tried to just open that door. We realize now our adoption agency has arms in her village.
Eric Huffman:
So once again, they enlisted the help of Gladys, their friend in Uganda who went back to a Namata's village and asked her mother if she'd be willing to speak with Namata on a video call. This would mean secretly leaving the village so that no one from the adoption agency would ever know about it.
Jessica Davis:
Why are you so excited Mata?
Namata:
Because I get talk to my mom.
Jessica Davis:
What are you going to say to her?
Jessica Davis:
We got a call back from our friend Gladys, and she's like she's elated. She cannot wait to see Namata. You want to go home?
Namata:
Yeah.
Jessica Davis:
So we made sure that there was a person from the Ministry of Gender in Uganda present for that Skype call to document it. We had enlisted an organization on the ground there in Uganda that had some experience with corruption in adoption. Then we had our friend Gladys there as well. That was the day we really learned the entire story that her mom had been tricked.
Interpreter:
Hey.
Namata:
Hi.
Interpreter:
Hello.
Namata:
Hello. How you doing?
Interpreter:
We are doing fine. How are you? It's your daughter.
Namata's Mom:
Yendi.
Adam Davis:
When Namata heard her mother say that she was tricked and that she would never have given her away, I mean, she loved us. But we have never seen that look of love on her face before.
Jessica Davis:
It was like a joy.
Adam Davis:
I can't even describe it.
Jessica Davis:
Yeah, and it was that day, at the Skype call. She was like, "Can I go home now?" We're like, "Oh crap. We can't do it that fast." I mean, it was the only time she cried about the situation. I was worried oh my gosh, that was so much to process, that was so much emotionally to realize everything that's transpired.
Eric Huffman:
What everyone learned on that video call was that the adoption agency had told Namata's mother that Jessica and Adam had agreed to sponsor Namata's education in America. Namata's mother as well as several other moms from the same village had been approached by adoption agency operatives who visited their tiny church asking all the parents there if they wanted a better education for their children. In all, seven children from the mother's village left home for what their parents thought was a temporary education program.
Jessica Davis:
There is no word in Namata's language for adoption. No word for it.
Eric Huffman:
Really?
Jessica Davis:
When we try to explain adoption to families, they still see it as help. Usually for an education, sometimes even for medical needs, like if their child has special needs or is struggling with HIV, they are hearing this family wants to help your child, but your child will be home.
Adam Davis:
It's like the propaganda machine is working on both continents because we're over here in the US hearing about orphans, as we understand the term "orphans". 2.3 million of them with no hope. Then on their end, our adoption Attorney in Uganda would go to the Royal Churches in the villages and tout her education program. So that's how they're able to separate the children from the families. In reality, it is not an orphan crisis. It's a family separation crisis.
Eric Huffman:
When an investigation was launched by Ugandan authorities, Jessica and Adam discovered that when the adoption agency first told them about Namata, she was very likely still at home with her family and not in the orphanage.
Adam Davis:
When we approached the adoption agency, we, in essence, placed an order for a child. They went out and found a child, put the child in the orphanage to make it legal. So when we went to meet Namata for the first time at the orphanage, I can remember all these children there and thinking, "I hope some family comes along and offers a home to these children." I remember being told all, "They're all matched with families." Well, the only reason they were there was because some families solicited a child for adoption.
Eric Huffman:
That's human trafficking is that what it is.
Jessica Davis:
That's what this is.
Adam Davis:
Precisely.
Jessica Davis:
Our case is not the exception. As I was investigating, I started speaking to any adoptive family that would speak to me, because I wanted to know, are these inconsistencies happening broadly or no. It was almost every family I spoke to had some inconsistency, some sign that the same thing might have happened. That was so upsetting to realize the scope of what's happening.
Eric Huffman:
So I hate to even ask this question. But was there a time when Mata's mom was told that her daughter was gone?
Jessica Davis:
That was horrible when she explained that to us. Namata's mom found out the truth in what's called the embassy interview. She went into that interview after the corrupt people involved had given her specific instructions, what's going to happen in this interview, you might hear some weird things. But they're very tricky and they don't let a lot of kids into the education program. So you have to stick to what we say. You need to dress very poorly because they don't want to help anyone that's got money get their kid into an education program. It was in that interview, the interviewer said, "I need you to understand you're never going to see your child again." She froze. She thought to herself in that moment, "Did I just go through all of this to give away my child?"
Eric Huffman:
According to the investigation, the official who interviewed Namata's mother at the embassy wrote in his notes ...
Jessica Davis:
This mother does not understand adoption.
Eric Huffman:
But the adoption still went through. For two years, Namata was separated from her mother until Adam and Jessica discovered the truth. Right away, they knew the only way to correct this awful injustice was to bring Namata home to her mother.
Adam Davis:
There was no precedent to say like, well, we found out that our child was trafficked and their mother had no idea what was going on. There was no precedent for a reunification.
Eric Huffman:
Jessica and Adam learned that legally, parents only have six months after an adoption to undo it. So that was off the table. But they knew that they had to get this little girl back home and they had no idea how far the adoption agency might go to protect their trafficking business. So instead of flying the whole family back to Uganda, Adam bought just two plane tickets, one for Namata and one for himself. Then the family braced themselves for a bittersweet goodbye.
Jessica Davis:
We spoke to the other kids, and I know how bad this hurts. But we have to minimize that hurt, so that we're not putting on Namata that pain. She should have never even been in this situation. So we really worked hard in those last days to not let those emotions go too wild. So that she didn't all of a sudden go, "Wait, oh, no. Am I doing something wrong? Should I feel sad wanting to go home? Now I feel guilt that I'm leaving you." I didn't want that. It really was like this. joyful, goodbye. As soon as the door closed, it was not so much joy.
Jessica Davis:
Mata, what's today?
Namata:
I'm going home.
Jessica Davis:
Are you excited?
Namata:
Yeah.
Jessica Davis:
Are you going to Uganda?
Namata:
Yeah.
Jessica Davis:
What's the first thing you're going to do when you see your mom?
Namata:
Hug her.
Adam Davis:
I was going to take her right up to her mother's arms, and see the whole thing through. I know with you being a United Methodist pastor, you're very familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son, where the father thinks he's lost his son forever and will never see him again. I literally got to see that play out when she grabbed her daughter.
Speaker:
[foreign language 00:26:34].
Adam Davis:
And wept and laughed, disappeared into the house.
Speaker:
[foreign language 00:26:43].
Adam Davis:
I mean, I can't even, it was holy ground. It was holy ground. It was God's justice unfolding right before my eyes.
Eric Huffman:
Wow.
Adam Davis:
She was surrounded by her family. She was surrounded by her neighbors. I was kind of an afterthought. It was always this bittersweet thing because we loved her, obviously. But this was wrong. I remember standing there thinking like, "She shouldn't even know I exist. None of this should have happened." So am I sad? Yes. But is she right where she belongs? Absolutely. No doubt, no question.
Eric Huffman:
If you're a parent, can you imagine not seeing your child for two years, and all because of an evil scheme designed to profit off of your best intentions as a parent? I can only imagine the kind of joy and relief that filled that mother's heart when her baby finally came home. Still, Namata's homecoming was only half the battle. She and her mother still weren't safe. Within days, adoption agency operatives began showing up in their village again, which prompted Jessica, all the way back in Ohio to keep fighting on Namata's behalf.
Jessica Davis:
I literally just called the FBI, explained what was happening. They must have already taken my previous call seriously because then I got a phone call from an agent on the ground in Uganda. He was like, "I'm on our way to her house right now." They were there before the people got to her house. They definitely made it apparent not to do that again. Namata's mom is amazing. She held her ground. She was like, "My daughter's with me. No one's taking my child."
Eric Huffman:
Namata's mother told Adam that only God could have brought her daughter back home again. She knew that God would continue to protect them. It's been almost five years since Namata went home to Uganda. Over the years, the two families have remained close, usually over video calls. During one of these calls, Namata's mother introduced Adam and Jessica to her new baby girl.
Adam Davis:
She named her baby Jessica, if that tells you anything.
Eric Huffman:
Oh my goodness.
Jessica Davis:
Yeah.
Eric Huffman:
What does that mean to you, Jessica?
Jessica Davis:
Hard to talk about. I feel undeserving, but it's so kind.
Eric Huffman:
I asked Jessica a question that I knew she might not like. But I think it's something that most of us have probably wondered about. Why didn't Jessica consider raising Namata in the US, where the little girl would almost certainly by any measure, have a better quality of life, better education and more opportunities? Why wasn't that the better choice for Namata?
Jessica Davis:
I'm glad you asked that question, although I hate that question.
Eric Huffman:
I figured you might.
Jessica Davis:
But it's so important because this is literally what we've been asked more than anything else. I think the "better life" quote-unquote narrative is probably the most dangerous in this entire adoption system. Who gets to decide what's the better life? Then based on that logic, that means anyone can come into anyone's home that has access to more resources and wealth, and say, "I will do better because I have more things, or I have more resources, I will give your child more opportunities." So we should all just accept that. Access to wealth or lack of wealth or access to things or lack of things should never be the reason for separating a family.
Eric Huffman:
I want to talk a little bit about what the answers are. Because every church has people in it, who are motivated by something good in them to do the right thing. What advice do you give to someone in America, specifically Christians in America who are considering adoption?
Adam Davis:
Well, one of the things we talk about is the moniker and the definition of the word "orphan". The difference between putting the energy on adoption versus putting the energy and the focus on keeping families together.
Jessica Davis:
Any community that's listening, and that's going, "Okay, I want to help." I would say, "Well, first, let's not help before we really understand the problem because that's what we did." We thought we understood the problem, and that's one of the reasons we're sharing our story is because had I heard something like this, I probably would have been more aware and probably would not have went down that path at all.
Jessica Davis:
I feel like for me, if that's like, I'm going to adopt a child abroad. Number one, you have to go into that adoption process with the understanding that ultimately, that child might not need to be adopted at all. We should be able to trust the people facilitating adoptions, but what we've learned is that you can't. So you have to first make sure that you've done everything you can to see if you can get the child home.
Jessica Davis:
Then I say second to that, "Has anyone done everything they can to get the child in a family where they don't lose their culture?" Then finally, if adoption truly is the last resort, and you feel like you should do this, I think we have to let go of those I call it like fairytale adoptions. Because if you think about it, even if a child lost their parents, do you think replacing those parents is going to solve that pain and loss? No. I think we often look at adoption as a solution. When we do that, we look at it like that, like adoption solves the loss. But it doesn't. Adoption is a commitment to be with that child, to support that child, to advocate for that child as they carry that heartache and loss for the rest of their lives.
Adam Davis:
Also not put unrealistic expectations upon the child to fulfill some need that I might have more to expect them to be grateful and appreciative when their life was decimated.
Jessica Davis:
Yeah.
Eric Huffman:
Over the past two decades, the number of Ugandan children and institutional care has surged. According to the Ugandan government, four out of five of the so called orphans have at least one living parent. Unregulated orphanages have become big business. Through websites and Facebook campaigns, they recruit well-meaning people around the world to sponsor children. These for-profit institutions, many of which are unlicensed, pull in nearly a quarter of a billion dollars a year from international donors. It's not uncommon for the kids to be neglected or even abused in these overcrowded facilities.
Eric Huffman:
After their reunion, Namata's mother shared their story with Ugandan authorities with the hopes of putting an end to this family separation crisis once and for all. In 2016, Uganda started cracking down and better regulating the growing orphan industry. They claim to have closed 500 unlicensed orphanages in the past five years. As for the adoption agency that facilitated Namata's adoption, they've been shut down as well by the State Department.
Eric Huffman:
Today, Adam and Jessica are also working to be part of the solution. In addition to sharing their story, Jessica has sought to bring healing to adoptees from Uganda and their biological families through an organization that she created called Kugada.
Jessica Davis:
It means in the Lugan language bringing together. Our whole goal is to bring together families for the adopted person. So the adoptive person is the focus. We want to help adoptive families find biological relatives in Uganda and vice versa, biological relatives find their adopted child, niece, nephew, grandchild in America. It's difficult to bridge that gap. There's been misunderstandings, mis-truths. But for that child to know the truth behind their adoption and to know their family, those are good things. If they want that, if they're driven to find answers, we should support that. So that's really what Kugada stemmed from a desire to keep helping in any way I could.
Eric Huffman:
As I listened to Adam and Jessica, I was in awe of their courage and conviction. I hope that if I'm ever faced with a situation like theirs, in which the right thing to do is also the hardest thing to do, that I'll be half as courageous as they've been. I'm so grateful that they chose to share their story with us. As hard as it must be for them to relive it, theirs is a story that needs to be told. Because it's the truth, and truth, even a hard truth like this one, can set us free.
Eric Huffman:
We were introduced to Adam and Jessica by a man named Mike Gallagher. He's the founder of 1 Million Home, an organization on a mission to get one million kids out of orphanages and home to their families. He wants the whole world to know the truth about what's really going on with these children.
Mike Gallagher:
Institutionalizing children cripples them and steals as much as it provides. No child belongs in an institution.
Eric Huffman:
We asked Mike to help us see the bigger picture. He taught us that while Namata's story might seem like an extreme case, the reality is that there are eight million children around the world living in orphanages today, and a staggering 80% of those children have biological families they can be safely reunited with. Often economically challenged parents who are seeking better opportunities for their children are incentivized to place their kids in these well-funded institutions. Tragically, what parents don't realize is that kids who grow up in institutions like these are 10 times more likely to end up in prostitution. 40 times more likely to have a criminal record, and 500 times more likely to take their own lives. Mike believes that the only justice for the orphan is home.
Mike Gallagher:
There's so much nuance and complexities to these circumstances when you're dealing with broken children and broken families. For us, we've really boiled it down to this, every one of the children living in an institution or forgotten on the streets, they belong in permanent families. There's two ways home for these children. One is through reunification with birth parents or extended family. That has to happen whenever possible, because that's what most of the children want and need. Whenever that's not possible, adoption has to be the option.
Mike Gallagher:
Permanent family for every one of these children, reunited when possible, adopted when necessary, but always family. So even biblically, when you look at where children belong, God sets the lonely in families. God doesn't set the lonely in temporary families. God doesn't set the lonely in institutions or on the streets. He sets the lonely in family.
Eric Huffman:
Mike's journey helping children without families started over a decade ago when he and his wife Mandy adopted a little girl with special needs who'd been abandoned by her parents.
Hannah:
This is so fun, Mommy.
Mike Gallagher:
The warnings were so dire for her. They said she may have brain damage, she could be paralyzed below the waist. You see her today, and she's the most confident, precocious, dynamic human being anyone could ever meet.
Hannah:
On your mark, get set, go. Go.
Mike Gallagher:
You're too fast.
Eric Huffman:
They later adopted a set of twins from Uganda who suffered from a serious medical condition that had already taken their mother's life. Mike soon realized that he could do more than just adopt kids into his own family. So as an entrepreneur, he set out to find a solution for the eight million kids living in orphanages around the world. His quest opened his eyes to the magnitude of the child separation crisis. Mike was totally shocked when he learned that there are 100 million kids living on the streets without any adult supervision or care. They're called street kids. Mike first encountered their plight during a visit to Kenya in 2016.
Mike Gallagher:
The first thing I did when I arrived was attend a funeral of a street kid, a boy named John who was living on the streets and ultimately died because of life on the streets. It was one of the most marking experiences in my life. To see the fate of what happens for children living outside of parental care, living outside of any care was so devastating and haunting.
Eric Huffman:
In that same visit, Mike was introduced to Agape Children's Ministry, an organization that was founded in Kisumu, Kenya, when a traditional orphanage discovered that most of their kids had local families to go home to. Desperate to open up beds in their facility, which was well over capacity, they began to reunify kids with their biological families. They even went the extra mile to equip and empower families to nurture and provide for their children.
Mike Gallagher:
They had transformed the situation of an entire district because they were finding families for every one of the kids they took in. It started with hundreds of kids and it turned into thousands of kids. As the kids were getting home, they were able to take in more and more children to the point where the street children population in their district was dropping and staying down. It was absolutely breathtaking. We wanted to do everything we could to help multiply this ministry to help as many other organizations as possible, to implement the kind of changes that they had implemented.
Eric Huffman:
Over the past 10 years, well meaning donors have given around $54 billion to care for orphans around the world. Much of that money has been used to build and operate orphanages. Research shows that sustaining a child in an orphanage costs around $3,000 a year. But Mike is quick to point out that it only takes a fraction of that, as little as $250 a year, to get a child home and their family strengthened.
Eric Huffman:
Over the years, my wife and I have personally contributed thousands of dollars to various orphanage projects around the world, and the churches that we've led have given thousands more. So it probably goes without saying that when I realized that all this time, we may have been contributing to some twisted child trafficking scheme, it felt like a serious gut punch. I didn't want to believe that I had somehow been complicit in millions of family separations, but it's the truth.
Eric Huffman:
Coming to terms with this truth has allowed me to see things as they really are. Look, it's really good and hopeful sign that so many people have given so much money to help orphans around the world. We should still encourage each other to be as generous as possible. But whenever we give, we should also be careful to support organizations that focus on reuniting families first, and adoption second.
Mike Gallagher:
As followers of Jesus, we have to have eyes of redemption, hearts of redemption. When we're living in an age of so much animosity and division and distraction, and where things can just be canceled or defunded without eyes towards redeeming the situation, we're going to miss it. I mean, the prevailing winds drew Christians at scale to fund orphanages all over the world, and in many cases, separate children from families that they belonged in with that prevailing wind.
Mike Gallagher:
If now the prevailing wind is to suddenly just stop funding it and cut off funding and shut down these institutions, we're going to miss the chance to actually be part of getting those kids healed and home. We're going to miss the chance to actually use that incredible global infrastructure to help far greater populations of children. We have to have eyes of redemption, innovation, making right on areas where maybe we got it wrong to begin with. We're going to keep contending for the best interests of these children.
Eric Huffman:
It's natural to feel demoralized when you learn that the things you thought were helping have actually caused more harm than good. It's really easy to just throw up your hands and walk away. But imagine if we decided to let this truth set us free, free to be even more generous, so that more kids can get home where they belong. To support Mike and his efforts, visit 1MillionHome.com, the number one, MillionHome.com.
Eric Huffman:
The orphan crisis isn't just a problem overseas. There are hundreds of thousands of children without permanent homes here in the US. We just call them by a different name, foster children. The hard truth is that most of us still have so much to learn about these kids and how best to help them. This is Brian Mavis, President of America's Kids Belong.
Brian Mavis:
This story actually begins in my wife's heart. When she was 16, her youth group went on a mission's trip in New Mexico.
Eric Huffman:
That's when Brian's wife Julie visited her first orphanage.
Brian Mavis:
She was just watching these kids and her heart broke. She says that she heard an inaudible but a deep impression, the voice of God, and it was three words, "Care for orphans." So at 16, she had a real clear purpose in her life that that's what she was supposed to do.
Eric Huffman:
Two years into their marriage, the young couple moved to Honduras where Julie worked at an orphanage for children that had been abandoned by their families.
Brian Mavis:
The reason they were abandoned is because the kids were all dying of cancer. Then we moved back to the States, had our own daughters. Everything looked great, living the American Dream, living in Southern California. She felt utterly lost. How am I supposed to live my purpose? Really was floundering.
Eric Huffman:
That's when Julie asked herself an important question. Where are the orphans in the US? This question led her to explore the American foster care system.
Brian Mavis:
So we started going to an orientation and talking to some people who were foster parents and like, "Why are kids in foster care?" They said, "Well, the kids are in care because of things that happened to them that they were either abandoned or abused or neglected." Parents are normally struggling with an extreme addiction. They might be in jail or prison or there might be prostitution, those kinds of things. Hearing this, a light bulb went off in her head. She realized foster care isn't my Plan B, it's still Plan A. There are kids in America like kids around the world, we just call them different words.
Eric Huffman:
Ryan and Julie became foster parents in 2005, first to a baby who was born with a drug addiction. They brought him home from the hospital. For nine months as they cared for him, they also worked with his biological parents in hopes of a successful reunification. But their hopes were dashed one day when they received an urgent call from the caseworker.
Brian Mavis:
The caseworker said, "This baby needs a new family, adoptive family. Would you be open to that?" We loved him, but we had been working hard with his parents. My wife asked another key question. She asked, "What would happen to him if we said no to adopting him?" The caseworker said, "Oh. Well, he'll be fine. There's a line of people waiting for the babies, infants." Then she said, "I just wish there was a line for all the other kids." There's like 800 kids in Colorado who need adopting but nobody really wants them because they're not babies. They come with siblings. So my wife was just like, "Somebody's got to do something. This is unjust."
Eric Huffman:
They decided not to adopt that baby boy, but instead to continue fostering children who were the most difficult to place. In 2007, a single conversation at his church changed Brian's life forever.
Brian Mavis:
I'm on staff at a church. My role is community transformation. I get a call from Child Welfare. Child Welfare asked, "Hey, can I meet with you to talk about child welfare in our county?" I said, "Sure." So a few days later, this woman named Cindy came. First thing she said to me was, "Thanks for meeting with me. I've been trying to meet with a pastor for three years. You're the first one to say yes."
Brian Mavis:
So I apologize that that had been her experience with us. Then she said, "Brian, I really just came here to tell you one thing. In the 27-year history of Child Welfare in our county, we have never had one day, not one single day where kids weren't waiting for families to take care of them." She said, "I have a challenge for you. Help me change who waits. Help me recruit so many grownups who will step up that they're on the waiting list, not the kids." So my wife had her three-word challenge of care for orphans. This three-word challenge changed the way, it's changed my life. I really sensed at that moment that this was a call from beyond Cindy, it was from God. I said yes. A year later, we helped them fulfill that goal.
Eric Huffman:
It started with only one county in Colorado and quickly grew from there. Over the next few years, the Mavis's partnered with the state to make high quality videos introducing foster children to prospective parents. Then Brian and Julie started sharing these videos at churches all over the state with a challenge to respond. The response was immediate and overwhelming. Within just a few years, thanks to the Mavis's and other collaborating organizations, the number of children available for adoption in Colorado dropped from 800 to just 280. That number has remained about the same ever since.
Eric Huffman:
Today, America's Kids Belong is working with several states to ensure that every child finds a loving home by recruiting more foster and adoptive families, engaging wraparound support for at risk foster and adoptive families along the way, and helping youth who have aged out of the system without a family to reach their fullest potential. Brian is the first to admit that becoming a foster family isn't easy. Caring for traumatized children requires a whole new set of parenting tools, and often includes working with the child's biological family to help create the best possible outcome for the child.
Brian Mavis:
I think for my wife and I, we just decided as the adults, it was up to us to take a risk for kids who were at risk, and that we rather live a life of purpose than a life of pleasure. So it was just kind of these deliberate decisions.
Eric Huffman:
A life of purpose rather than pleasure, a life of purpose rather than pleasure. These words are like smelling salts for the soul. Deciding to become a foster family wasn't just a wake up call for Brian and Julie, but for their biological children as well.
Brian Mavis:
If you ask my daughters, what was it like growing up being a foster sibling, and they would say that it was probably the most informative and transformative part of our family's life. This was a deliberate parenting decision. It was like we live in a bubble, a life of middle class, prosperity. We need our kids to be exposed to kids who don't have that, who have had pain. We need to expose our kids to what it's like to be a family that's trying to heal.
Eric Huffman:
I've heard a lot of families telling me that they could never foster because they can't imagine the pain of saying goodbye to a child they've grown to love as their own.
Brian Mavis:
We've gone through it many times. In fact, the hardest my girls have ever seen me cry was giving a boy back to his, in this case, grandparents. After kind of the handoff, got into our car, and I just started sobbing. That was years and years and years ago, it still gets me. Our girls every time are the first ones to tell us, "Let's do it again." So it's another lesson in life of you can love and not have to possess.
Eric Huffman:
Today in the US, there were 400,000 kids in the foster care system. 300,000 of them are on a path toward reunification with their biological families, if not a parent, then a relative who can love and care for them. Brian admits that we tend to be overly focused on adoption. We might need to rethink how we help foster children and their families.
Brian Mavis:
When churches really started getting involved in this issue, we were kind of adoption-focused. Let's focus on the kids who need adopting. Sometimes this whole space can be romanticized. It's tough. You're inviting, trauma into your heart and home, and then you're acting as a healer. Some of these parents, they had their own trauma deal. Many of them were in foster care themselves or they're struggling with addiction.
Brian Mavis:
If the church or the community come around those parents, those parents love their kids, they just haven't been equipped. If you said, "You give them hope, you can do this, we're here for you. We want to see you succeed," and that child's rooting for their parents. So it is as close to the heart of God and gospel oriented, reunification, redemption as adoption is. Christians need to have this better holistic view of the whole thing. Adoption can be a beautiful thing. Redemption and reunification also can be a beautiful thing.
Brian Mavis:
In fact, I was just with a woman a few days ago who grew up in foster care. She lost her children to foster care. Then she met the foster parents. The foster parents said, "We're rooting for you." It changed her life. She said no one ever believed in me before. So along the way, she found a guy that was decent to her and she's married. She has her kids back. She's in relationship with this foster family who's still there for her. My wife had this great line to this mom, she said, "I want you to know we're not here to take your child." We're here to take care of him until you can. The attitude is, "Let's put the kid first. Let's do whatever is best for the kid."
Eric Huffman:
For some, kids adoption is what's best. About 100,000 children currently in the US foster system are waiting for new families. In those cases, foster families have the heavy burden of walking a child through the trauma of losing their biological family and the uncertainty about whether they'll ever find a new one. Tracee Rudd works as the State Director for the Colorado Chapter of America's Kids Belong.
Tracee Rudd:
We connect a lot with the community, with churches, with businesses and other community groups to just create more foster friendly communities so that foster parents, when they're fostering, they feel supported. Because sadly, one of the statistics out there nationwide is that foster families, 50% of them quit within the first year.
Eric Huffman:
Oh my gosh.
Tracee Rudd:
Yeah, that's a horrible statistic so we want to create enough supportive communities around them that they can keep doing what they're doing
Eric Huffman:
Tracee had a heart for helping foster kids long before she started working at America's Kids Belong but she and her husband never really planned on becoming foster parents themselves.
Tracee Rudd:
We had considered it about five years ago. My brother's family was getting foster certified. We're like, "Okay. We'll look into this also." So we went to our first orientation and then we got certified as foster family helpers so that we could support my brother's family as they were fostering. We wanted to make sure that they felt like they had teammates in it. So we got certified by the same county that they were certified in, so that we could watch the children that were in their care. We could drive the children in their care. But we weren't planning to adopt. I mean, we were in that season of not looking to add to our family but also wanting to be very open to whatever God put in front of us.
Eric Huffman:
Almost exactly one year ago, God put someone in front of Tracee, a six-foot-tall 14-year-old boy named Nathan. He'd been in foster care for three years when he walked into a video shoot featuring foster children in need of permanent homes.
Tracee Rudd:
It was the first I Belong Project video shoot that I was directing. He walks in with his caseworker and he had a Mickey Mouse t-shirt on. That kind of caught my attention because my husband loves Disney, loves Mickey Mouse and wears graphic t-shirts himself all the time. So I remember asking Nathan, "So do you like Mickey Mouse?" He's like, "No, I just thought the shirt was cool." I was like, "Okay."
Eric Huffman:
He was wearing it ironically.
Tracee Rudd:
Yeah, yeah.
Nathan:
How it feels to belong, the way I would describe it is just to feel wanted like, to know somebody in the world wants you and cares about you and loves you.
Tracee Rudd:
When he was being interviewed and I was sitting there next to his caseworker while somebody was interviewing him on camera, I was like, "God, am I supposed to be paying attention to him in a different way?" Because it just different little things had gotten my attention. I was like, "Okay. Is this different? Am I supposed to be tuning in here?"
Nathan:
When I grow up, I want to apply and either become a diesel mechanic or a two-cycle mechanic.
Tracee Rudd:
Shortly after I said that prayer in my head to God, one of the questions that we asked kids is what do they want to do when they grow up. He said he wanted to be a diesel mechanic, which my father is a diesel mechanic. He's retired now. Our oldest son is a diesel mechanic. So I was just like, "Oh my gosh."
Eric Huffman:
As soon as the final video was edited, one of the first people she showed it to was her husband, Dave.
Tracee Rudd:
He's like, "I think you're right. I think he belongs in our family."
Eric Huffman:
Wow.
Tracee Rudd:
Then I went to my brother's house one day and I was like, "I need to show you this video." I'm showing you my brother the video of Nathan. My niece hollers from the other side of the room, "That kid belongs in our family."
Eric Huffman:
Oh my gosh. On Mother's Day of 2020, Nathan moved in with Tracee and Dave. Moving day marked the end of his long journey in foster care. Nathan had lived in five different homes since age 11 when he first entered the foster care system. His mother was a drug addict who was often too high to care for her kids.
Tracee Rudd:
He's actually the oldest of six kids, and they had just lived a vagabond life.
Eric Huffman:
From an early age, Nathan was the one who stepped up to care for his younger siblings, changing their diapers and feeding them whatever food he could find around the house. Tracee suspects that when the babies were neglected by their mother, Young Nathan stepped up to keep them alive.
Tracee Rudd:
His mom and the different guys that she was with, it got to a point where they were so heavy into drugs that other people started to pay attention. Somebody that partied with them, she was actually the one that pulled the cord and said something's got to change for these kids.
Eric Huffman:
That's when the police were called. They took Nathan's mother off to prison and her six kids were separated and sent to different foster homes.
Eric Huffman:
What does that do to a kid, to be in that position, in those years of of your life to experience and see the things that he did?
Tracee Rudd:
I probably don't even know all the layers of what it does to a kid. But he's a little bit of an unusual case study, I would say. Something about him and the fact that he was the oldest of these kids, he's wise beyond his years. He's strong and he's brave. He knows he's strong. But there's also this part of him that does not trust people because even in foster care, sadly, he had a few families that he lived with that he thought were going to adopt him and his sister, and it didn't work out that way. So that is another layer have you know just breaking down that trust with people and just feeling like, "Can I even trust anybody?"
Tracee Rudd:
So I feel very fortunate that we have seen him be vulnerable and trust us but it was a slow build. One example, he knew he'd done something wrong and broken our trust. He was coming home from staying the night at a friend's house and he knew he was busted already for what went down. He got home we were busy and getting ready to go somewhere else, like all of us. So we'd had a conversation on the phone but we said we'll deal with it later. Then when we didn't deal with it when he got to the house and then it was bedtime and then it was the next morning, and we're like, "Oh gosh we need to talk to him."
Tracee Rudd:
I found out later that that span of time, in his head, he was like, "Oh crap I've done it. They're going to get rid of me." When he verbalized that to me, I just started crying. That alone is just an example of his perspective in what had happened to him in life, that he was hard-hearted and he didn't expect people to give him a chance. My husband and I both were like, "Oh buddy, that wasn't even on the table whatsoever. You're grounded from your phone, but that's it." Over and over had to tell him like, "There might be times we're disappointed in you. There might be times that we don't like you very much, but we will always love you. Yes, you might have consequences but the love won't change."
Eric Huffman:
Tracee and Dave officially became Nathan's mom and that just a few weeks ago in front of a Colorado judge. But Tracee knows it will take years to address all the trauma and pain that Nathan suffered throughout his childhood.
Tracee Rudd:
I had noticed a cut on his arm one day. I remember saying, "Hey. What's that?" It was right in the row where he's done other self harm. He's like, "Well, a song came on that made me sad, and I found a razor blade." I was like, "Well, what can we do different?" We kind of went through this type of thing a few different times of reminding him, "Don't stay by yourself in your room or in the basement or whatever. Come find us." I said, "You don't even have to come talk to me. Just come sit in the same room as me if you want."
Tracee Rudd:
I remember one of the first times he did that. That he just came and sat on the couch. I was like, "Are you okay?" He didn't really answer me. I was like, "Okay, I'll just keep doing what I'm doing, but he's sitting here." Eventually he was crying and I went over and put my arm around him. God has definitely landed me in a place of being okay in the messy. It's okay that things don't line up perfectly. I want to try to be the example to him of God's openness to him. Come as you are and that he can come as he is into my arms, into our family, and into any conversation. I don't want him to feel like he has to be something he's not. I think that's something for Christians to think about is our expectation of others. It's not about doing right or wrong. It's about if we can draw people in because god wants to draw them and also. He's using us to do that
Eric Huffman:
Tracee and Dave are very careful not to force their Christian faith onto Nathan
Tracee Rudd:
Early on I remember him asking, "Well, what if I'm not a Christian?" Are you okay with that?" I'm like, "Yeah." He's like, "You're not going to try to force me?" I was like, "I literally can't force you." He's like, "Well, other people have tried to force me." I was like, "Oh well, buddy, I can't force you to believe something. You get to believe whatever you want to believe. Faith is your own thing." Even just recently we had a conversation that I was like, "Yeah. He's still wrestling with it". His teenage boy side wants to definitely say like, "I don't think there's a god. He didn't rescue me when I prayed to him all those times," which I challenged him on that a little bit. I'm like, "You might not see all the things that God was doing when you were in those hard spots. Maybe he was doing things that you can't see all the pieces that came together."
Eric Huffman:
It's easy to call people like Tracee and Dave heroes, but from the Christian perspective, taking care of vulnerable children isn't heroic but natural. Throughout the Bible, God is extremely protective of vulnerable children. The Bible also says that we are made in God's image. So our hearts are copies of his. So it follows that caring for orphans will come naturally to us. People who choose to foster and adopt are simply doing what God made all of us to do. That's why Brian Mavis from America's Kids Belong is so quick to point out that parents aren't the heroes, but the helpers. The real heroes are the kids who overcome so much trauma and pain and still, to the best of their ability, they open their little hearts again to love and be loved by a family. In taking such a courageous risk, these kids show their foster and adoptive parents a better way of seeing the world.
Tracee Rudd:
I remember signing his birthday card. I started to sign it Tracee, because for my big kids, I don't sign it Mom, I sign it Tracee. I'm not their mom. I signed it Tracy and then I crossed it out and I put mom. Then below that I put, "By the way, that is the first time I've ever referred to myself as mom." I remember him opening it and reading the card. He looked up at me with the startled face almost like, "Oh my." Then he grinned real big.
Tracee Rudd:
I couldn't have imagined a year ago having a bond with a child, especially a six foot tall teenage boy, that feels so sweet. But he has definitely blessed me in that way. That there is something special there. That he calls me mom and he genuinely means it. He's opened up this vulnerable spot in me, I think. His vulnerability opened up a vulnerable spot in me that I'd shelved the thought of ever being called mom. I am called mom, he bought me a necklace for Christmas that says "mom".
Eric Huffman:
Gosh, it's like he adopted you into motherhood.
Tracee Rudd:
Yes. Totally, totally. Pretty special.
Eric Huffman:
Wow.
Eric Huffman:
If Tracy hadn't met Nathan last March, he could have very easily aged out of the foster system without a permanent family. That's what happens to about 26,000 kids every year in America because teenagers are the most difficult to place for adoption. So what happens when after bouncing around from place to place, unwanted for years, without a family of their own, these kids become adults? The hard truth is that many of them wind up on the streets. Before long, they're being served sack lunches under city bridges by churches like mine, through homeless and addiction ministries.
Eric Huffman:
These ministries are essential. But anyone who's ever done that kind of work will tell you that by the time homelessness and drugs take hold, a sack lunch and a quick prayer feels like it's too little too late to make a real difference in somebody's life.
Brian Mavis:
Wouldn't it be smart if we could go upstream and help these kids not need those things? Because the kids in foster care who age out, disconnect with a family, are the most vulnerable group in the United States to be trafficked sexually. They are three times more likely than their peers to commit suicide. They struggle with addiction. Half of them don't graduate from high school. They're two and a half times more likely to suffer with PTSD than a military combat veteran. These kids are also the most likely to lose their own children to the foster care system. Repeating the cycle.
Brian Mavis:
So if you can step in and help that child, one, not be disconnected to actually have a family, even if they age out. Like say, "Hey, you got a place to come for the holidays. You've got someone to call when you need help, advice. You don't know how to fill out a resume, you don't have a driver's license because you weren't allowed that option in foster care, you're not alone," that could change it, the kid's life.
Eric Huffman:
Brian challenges Christians to take more seriously the biblical mandate to not just open our hearts and our wallets, but also our homes to America's most vulnerable children.
Brian Mavis:
I think the most underutilized physical asset in the Kingdom of God are Christians' homes. Imagine a church. Let's say that church has a thousand families that attend it. So it's a thousand households say that the average home size is just 2500 square feet. That's two and a half million square feet. That's 3000 bedrooms, at least 500 of them aren't being used. It's a thousand kitchens, it's a thousand dinner tables. They're just not being used. There's just this tremendous asset that already exist for helping these kids.
Eric Huffman:
I've often heard the adage that if every church just adopted one child, we could wipe out the orphan crisis. But Brian rejects that kind of thinking.
Brian Mavis:
One, that will never happen. Two, you don't want it to happen. Let me illustrate why. I was with a family and spoke, and they came up afterwards and then they said, "Can we get some advice from you?" I said, "Sure. What's it about?" They said, "We are a foster adoptive family, have been for 10 years. We're in a church of about 500 people, had grown up there. We are the only family in our church that does this." Then they said, "We feel so alone and our kids feel like they don't fit. What should we do?" I was shocked what came out of my mouth. I said, "Quit rewarding bad behavior and find another church where you don't feel alone and your kids feel like they belong."
Brian Mavis:
I hate the idea of one family in every church. Have a church that says, "This can be part of who we are, our DNA, We care for the vulnerable and the most vulnerable in our community. We're looking for adoption and redemption. We're going to do this right, and we're going to be trauma-care informed." Trauma care applies way beyond just foster kids. It's going to help us be better humans and better Christians. We believe that these kids need a church. But we also need to believe with equal passion that the church needs these kids. We need these kids to be the kind of church God wants our church to be.
Eric Huffman:
Safety can become like an idol sometimes. Obviously, it's important that people feel safe, but God didn't create us for safety sake. In the Bible, there's a recurring theme of God calling people to venture outside of their comfort zones and to love recklessly. Too often, when faced with a massive challenge, like the orphan crisis that exists right here in the US, we can choose our own safety instead of assuming the risks of loving, vulnerable and traumatized children. Well, not only does that mentality sell orphans short, as Brian said, when Christians choose our own comfort over loving these children, it holds our churches back from being the kind of church God wants us to be.
Eric Huffman:
In January 2019, there were 29,927 children in foster care in the State of Texas and 3,378 children waiting for adoptive families. Not everyone is called or equipped to become a foster parent right away. But there are things that we can all do to make a difference in a child's life.
Eric Huffman:
If after listening to this episode, you're feeling inspired to help but you just don't know where to begin, I recommend encouraging your church or your business to partner with America's Kids Belong. That's what we're planning to do at my church, the story, to raise up and support foster families in our community. You can find more information at AmericasKidsBelong.org. If you already know a foster family in your own community, I encourage you to reach out and ask them how you can help. Maybe offer to cook them some meals or assist them with carpooling or even financially help them out. This isn't a job that one family should have to do alone.
Eric Huffman:
If you're feeling compelled to make a difference overseas, I encourage you to connect with Mike Gallagher's organization 1 Million Home, 1MillionHome.com to find out how you can make a difference in child's lives across the globe. This might be the most important episode we've ever produced at Maybe God. So I want to thank all of our guests who contributed to this episode. But I also want to thank all of you for listening. I pray that by choosing lives of purpose rather than just pleasure, one day, this orphan crisis will be history.
Eric Huffman:
This episode of Maybe God was produced by Julie Mirlicourtois, Andrea Gentle, and Eric and Geovanna Huffman. The talented editors are Shannon Stefan, and JR Chapel. Our social media guru is Kat Brough. For more information about Maybe God and to connect with us online, head to MaybeGodPod.com today.

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